The “Alien” prequel that isn’t an “Alien” prequel, this has been my most eagerly-anticipated film of the year. I’ve managed to avoid pretty much everything about it, so did it disappoint?
Well, to be honest, yes. If you’re going to reboot a franchise, then you’re obviously going to have to live up to what came before. And on pretty much every level, “Prometheus” fails by comparison.
Firstly, a crash course for the uninitiated. In “Alien”, we see a giant, dead, humanoid creature (known in the fandom as a Space Jockey, here named as an Engineer) with its chest burst open. The implication is that this creature was piloting a ship that somehow picked up an alien species that has killed the crew and caused a crash landing on moon LV-426. The human crew in “Alien” answer the crashed ship’s distress signal, and, unfortunately for them, encounter a field of eggs laid by the stowaway alien species. “Prometheus” gives us some more information about the history of the Engineers, but on moon LV-226 (not LV-426). So it’s set in the same universe as Alien, but this isn’t dealing with the same story path of the original series.
On the positive side, “Prometheus” is visually spectacular. From the opening shots of breathtaking scenery, to its hi-tech CGI gadgets and back to the familiar Giger designs from the Alien franchise. Every frame is a work of art in a way that only Ridley Scott could photograph. Whilst there are a few moments that arguably make it worthwhile, the 3D is mostly superfluous. There are long sections where you could probably take your glasses off and miss very little.
The cast has its strengths- Noomi Rapace is fabulous as the intelligent, emotional core of the film (but she’s no Ripley), Michael Fassbender is superbly ambiguous as android David (but he’s no Bishop), and Idris Elba adds some much-needed personality to the crew as the ship’s captain (but he’s no Hudson).
Unfortunately, the rest of the crew bear more resemblance to the- let’s generously call them- characters from the Alien Vs Predator franchise than the Alien franchise. Charlize Theron gives an icy Nicole Kidman impression as The Rich One With The Company’s Interest In Mind (but she’s no Burke), Guy Pearce is inexplicably cast in unconvincingly heavy prosthetics as an old man (we never see him young, so what was the point?), Logan Marshall-Green is initially charismatic as Rapace’s love interest/ science partner (but he’s no Hicks), then undermines himself by suddenly losing interest in his own cause, before falling victim to a rather unnecessary plot device. And it’s this very device that sets the film off on the wrong tangent.
One of the most frustrating things about a lot of Hollywood movies is their instance on human intervention. In “Jurassic Park”, it can’t be that the dinosaurs overpower the humans, a human has to disable the security first. And in “Prometheus”, we can’t simply discover the origins of the Alien species, there must be some level of human interference. Yes, this is a film about creation- where did we come from, and why? Does anyone have the right to destroy a form of life it created?- but we’re not allowed to just accept that the Engineers are a random alien species that simply encountered another random alien species. Heaven forbid alien life forms actually interact with other alien life forms without humans being involved in some way, shape or form.
The life cycle of the alien creature has long been established, and although it is tweaked and evolved ever so slightly in each film, the differences are subtle, but the life cycle remains. Egg, face-hugger, chest-burster, fully-grown alien. Not here. Here, it’s basically rewritten, and rather than some “aaaah, that’s how it started” Eureka moment, it just stinks of bullshit rewriting for the sake of it. I can accept a different evolutionary path under different circumstances, but not so profoundly in a space of 30 years.
But, these criticisms aside, I don’t want to make out like I sat there hating this film on any level. I didn’t. I was completely captivated for every second, even if the answers I was so eagerly anticipating turned out to be as frustrating as they were intriguing. It’s basically a cross between “Alien” and the first “X Files” movie, with a bit of “2001” thrown in.
There is plenty of action and atmosphere to counteract the inaction, just unfortunately it loses the claustrophobia of the original, and there are very few genuine scares. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, slime and tentacles aren’t scary. The face-hugger and Giger aliens, on the other hand, are possibly the most terrifying creations in cinema history. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, when it’s as perfect as it is.